Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

[Review] Super Miss Sue, Drury Street, Dublin 2

The last time I was in Super Miss Sue was on their soft opening night, when the tables were turned over to press members and other people of food noteworthiness. It was a cold night in early January and the tall windows that are such a feature of this new restaurant were not much use. Glasses of fizzy prosecco and exquisitely fresh oysters with a wonderful ponzu dressing all went down with ease. It was all very good, but how would Super Miss Sue hold up when dining as a paying visitor?

We returned recently for a weekday lunch date. The tall windows along Lower Stephen Street that had looked out onto dreary darkness before were now filled with spring sunshine, lifting the entire room. The decor of ceiling fans, wood and brass fittings and backlit Campari bottles reminded me somehow of Spain and the finest tapas bars, altogether fitting for a seafood restaurant. The other end of the venue holds a posh fish'n'chips takeaway, which I've been informed is very good indeed. That, dear reader, will have to be tested another day.
Dining at Super Miss Sue
Classic interior of Super Miss Sue
There's an extensive menu with a two course lunch option for €25. Interestingly, the set menu is made up of the more higher priced items and I am nearly swayed by the sirloin flap steak with chimichurri and papas fritas. But we stick to our seafood guns. The Bloody Mary seafood cocktail is packed with mussels, clams, prawns and avocado and garnished with a rim of celery salt (regular menu price €14).  I can't abide celery, so I leave this dish to Himsef who polishes it off with delight. After all, it's rare that he gets a dish entirely to himself. Instead I dive into pan-seared scallops with sesame and honey truffle ponzu (€13). A little pile of seaweed salad and chargrilled lettuce are wonderful touches to the sweetly seared scallops. It's really really good.
Bloody Mary seafood cocktail
Both of us choose grilled fish for mains, although the swordfish burger made a good showing. Himself chose mackerel "straight from the sea" simply grilled with olive oil, lemon and garlic (€12). In a miracle of fish preparation, there wasn't a single bone to be found. My choice of a whole grilled sea seabream was stuffed with lemon and herbs, and topped with crunchy samphire, garlic and capers (€18). After I deftly performed some surgery to remove the spine and head, I dove into the lemony, garlicky oil, crisp skin and soft flesh. It bought memories of grilled fish on the beach in Portugal whooshing through my head.
Grilled mackerel
Grilled whole sea bream
On our first visit, we had definitely enjoyed the hospitality offered by Super Miss Sue. Given that it's the latest venture from experienced Dublin restauranteur, John Farrell, it's no surprise that the whole thing has been well thought through. If you don't know who John Farrell is, he's the man behind Dillingers, 777 and the Butcher Grill. So therefore you can reasonably expect that Super Miss Sue will be cool, staffed with stylish people and doesn't take bookings for smaller groups. The current seafood venue is the first phase of the planned development with an upstairs restaurant and gin bar promised. 

The imagery of Super Miss Sue (featuring a sizzling Rozanna Purcell) is alluring. Miss Sue jumps off the page as a vivacious character in the mode of a bikini-wearing 1950's beach babe. According to her Twitter profile, she has a penchant for deep-sea divers and prosecco. All I'll say is that if a seafood and prosecco diet will garner me that voluptuous figure, then you can count me right in.

Super Miss Sue, Units 2-3 Drury Street Car Park, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 679 9009
Twitter: @SuperMissSue

Super Miss Sue on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 9, 2014

[Review] The Taphouse, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

I'm firmly of the opinion that the Celtic Tiger years ruined the Irish pub. Too many good traditional pubs were gutted and turned into identikit late-night bars with crap music and ride-you-sideways pricing. To be fair, there were many awful pubs out there too, some of which had toilets that were barely above the outside shed standard. But overall, somewhere along the way, we forgot about the pub experience.

Personally, I'm still coming to terms with the mauling handed out to the Oval in Cork, which was gentrified and velvet-curtained into the style preferred by Benny McCabe. The old Oval had a ceiling patinaed from years of tobacco smoke, a minidisc player with eclectic music, tables made from Singer sewing machines and you occasionally had to use a hard-rimmed keg as a seat when the pub was busy. Most importantly, it had character. (To be clear though, I like what McCabe has done in Cork, where he has nurtured much vibrancy in the city's night life. I just terribly miss the old Oval).

In the last few years, I've also become convinced that the Americans have nailed the art of the modern pub. While travelling around the US, both for work and personal reasons, I have drank and eaten in many venues that had a good selection of local beers, easy to eat but high quality bar food and a general all-round good atmosphere. So it's no surprise then to me that Irish-born, US businessman David Kelly is keen to bring that recipe for success back to Ireland.
Whiskey sour
Kelly is a partner in the US-based Rí Rá pub group and together with his partners, he has purchased and renovated the former Russell's of Ranelagh. Given how Ranelagh has boomed, even during the downturn, something must have been very wrong for Russell's to close. The interior, which always seemed cold and sterile to me before, now feels more like a gentleman's club with reclaimed parquet flooring, leather seating, dark wood and bookshelf-lined walls. It's dark but warmly lit, and immediately feels comfortable. The bar is fitted out with multiple TVs and screens for the sports fans, but the screen placement is quite clever as the end result feels more like a sitting room than a sports bar.

More importantly, the Taphouse has an inviting menu. It's the kind of food that suits drinking with a focus on smaller dishes which are high in flavour. On our second visit, Himself went for the fish tacos (€12) having tried the assorted sliders (€4 each or 3 for €10) on our first visit. Three tacos packed with chunks of seared fish and fresh vegetables came in a little holder,  while my ribs (€9) were accompanied with a fresh red cabbage slaw. Two large buckets of regular fries and sweet potato fries (€3 each) came with a malt vinegar mayo. The soft ribs were coated in that kind of generic barbecue sauce which is tasty enough not to offend anyone, while the slaw provided savoury crunch. 
Fish tacos
Regular and sweet potato fries
Ribs with slaw
American influences are also present in the service, which is efficient throughout. Many of the floor staff sport earpieces or walkie-talkies, allowing them to stay in communication even when the noise is at a peak. And boy, ever since the January paychecks came out, it has been busy. 

The Taphouse is most definitely a modern pub. It dares to sell beer in non-traditional sizes (i.e. not a pint!) and has a good selection of Irish craft beers, all displayed on chalkboards behind the bar. Infused spirits are used in house special cocktails, with a decent selection of simpler classic cocktails also on offer. It's all designed so that the well-trained staff can run the bar without needing to be experts. Take out 'growlers', which are very common in the US, allow beer fans to take their favourite drink home in a reusable container.

The Taphouse has hit a sweet spot. It understands what the market wants and it delivers it. More publicans could take note of this.

The Taphouse, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
Tel: +353 (0)1 491 3436
Twitter: @TapHouseDublin

Taphouse bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

[Listing] Valentine's Day 2014

Let's just start by saying that I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day. Having said that, it's always good to celebrate love, so Stitch and Bear have collected details of events and offers to help you out.

For the daring…
The wonderful Bijou Bistro in Rathgar is running a romantic menu throughout the month of February (6 courses and a glass of prosecco for €55 per person) with special treats for anyone who 'pops the question'. Any couple who get engaged at the restaurant will be entered into a draw to win a luxurious 5-star hotel break with dinner and champagne. Additionally, if your man gets down on one knee during Valentine's weekend (Thursday to Sunday), Bijou will gift you a bottle of champagne to charge your glasses. 

For the meat lovers...
For the daring (or assured cooks) out there, the Village Butcher in Ranelagh is selling a 30 day dry-aged cote de boeuf for two for €19.99 each. Cooking instructions can be provided also!

My much beloved Bison BBQ is offering a mouth watering cowboy steak with 5 Bison sides and 2 Bison kicks for €50 per couple. Make sure to book your seat quickly.

For the cheese lovers…
Café Novo at the Westbury Hotel has a "Melt My Heart" treat featuring a baked heart-shaped Neufchâtel cheese, served with a fig balsamic compote and toasted sourdough bread. Choose from a glass of white (Muscadet de Sevre, Loire Valley) or red (Les Crouzs Vielles, Rousillon) wine and pay just €22 for the whole lot. The offer runs from Monday February 10th to Sunday February 16th and bookings can be made by called (01) 646 3353.

For the restaurant goers…
Red Torch Ginger Thai restaurant on St Andrew's Street is offering a 3 course menu, with prosecco/cocktail on arrival, a bottle of wine to enjoy with your dinner plus tea/coffee for €80 per couple. 

Down in Cork, the Cornstore always offers good value, with an early Valentine's value menu priced at €29.95.

For those with a sweet tooth...
Unfortunately, chef Robert Jacob's course "Cooking with the one you love" at Donnybrook Fair Cookery School is already sold out, but you might find Robert's class "Macaron Heaven" quite tempting instead. Or it could be purchased as a strategic gift for the cook in your life. Tickets cost €75 with more information available on the Donnybrook Fair Cookery School calendar.

The cool Damson Diner is shaking up boozy romantic milkshakes with vanilla ice cream, fresh milk, homemade blueberry jam, Chambord raspberry liquer and vodka. It's served with two shows (if you can bear to share), whipped cream and a cherry on top for just €5.

For the animal lovers...
Dublin Zoo have a romantic morning on offer for the early risers. The zoo will open its doors for just 100 couples at 8am on the mornings of February 15th and 16th. Upon entering the zoo, the lovebird couples can collect a romantic breakfast picnic from Haughton House, before taking in the early morning sights and sounds of the historic Zoo. Throughout the morning, the team will host special keeper talks on the courtship, breeding and exotic romantic rituals of some animals. Couples will also receive a romantic goody bag and souvenir key ring. Tickets costs €65 per couple and further information can be found here

For those who like a guilty pleasure...
Fancy a bit of Swayze in "Dirty Dancing"? The Movie Junction Drive-in Cinema in Cork is showing this 80s classic over Valentine's weekend, with entry costing €20 per car including a bar of Butler's chocolate and a red balloon. Best of all, €3 from each entry will be donated to the Hope Foundation


Monday, February 3, 2014

[Listing] Walkers' Crisps Flavour Millionaire Competition

There are many of us out there who are traditionalists when it comes to our crisps. I personally love a good, mouth-puckering salt & vinegar, or a nicely savoury cheese & onion. On the other hand, my father has developed a real love for sweet chili flavoured crisps. To each their own!

Walkers have announced details of a campaign called "Do Us A Favour" where they are asking their fans to help them create a new flavour combination. One winner will be crowned the first ever Walkers'  Flavour Millionaire (#FlavourMillionaire) and in with a chance of winning £1,000,000 or £10,000 for the five runners-up. (All prizes will be converted to Euro, should the winner be from Ireland).

Entries can be submitted at until March 4th. At that stage, a panel of judges will select the shortlist of flavours to be developed and launched during the summer. The Irish & British public will then decide on the favourite and ultimate winner through a public vote.

There's one catch however, as all flavour suggestions will need to start with one of the Walkers' staple ingredients. Once you've picked from cheddar, chicken, pork, sour cream, tomato or beef, then you can let your imagination run wild.

With a top prize of a cool million pounds on offer, it's worth getting the taste part of your brain into top gear.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

[Review] Brioche, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

A lovely red brick cottage just off the main Ranelagh strip has been beautifully converted into the new location for Gavin McDonagh's Brioche. The concept here is French-style tasting plates, but in fairness to McDonagh, he's not a recent follower of this restaurant trend. He served up delectable little plates in the city centre Brioche Ce Soir, all from a tiny kitchen area used for daytime sandwich preparation.

But now, he's king of his own open kitchen, presiding over a small dining room and conservatory-type area. On the night we visited, the room was heaving with Ranelagh-rati who were packed in and downing wine at a pace reminiscent of the glory tiger days. This was in the middle of January, but no one was showing any signs of nervous waiting for that much anticipated January paycheck. It always seems as if it's a case of "laissez les bon temps rouler" in Ranelagh (to quote a friend of mine).
Pastrami of salmon

Killkeel Harbour Crab

Our friendly waiter didn't take any chances with us, making sure that we understood the tasting plates concept. I'd be interested in knowing if there isn't a Dublin diner who doesn't understand it at this point. The menu is varied and tempting and we chose our dishes with likely kitchen preparation times in mind. 

First out was the pastrami of salmon with pickled pear, ginger, soya and wasabi creme fraiche (€10.95) along with the Killkeel Harbour crab (€10.95). The little jabs of sour and sharp brought the rich salmon to life, while the helter-skelter arrangement of sweet crunchy apple and fennel lifted the delicate crab.
St Germain Foie Gras

St Germain foie gras, wrapped in Tipperary ham was served with duck fat-fried brioche (€12.95). Yes, you heard me right, duck fat-fried brioche. Doesn't that sound just wonderful? I'll have to leave assessment to Himself, but I really enjoyed the rich smoothness of the foie gras (Well who wouldn't?)

Pan-fried seabass with perfectly crispy skin came atop a pile of crunchy samphire, baby artichoke and tomato water and was, surprisingly one of the cheaper dishes on the menu (€9.95).
Pan-fried sea bass

Hop smoked duck breast

Our final dish of hop-smoked duck breast with muscat grape, chestnut purée and elderflower jus (€8.95) arrived at the same time as it did at the neighbouring table. One cooking effort for the chef, feeding two tables. Perfectly pink, it pleased my liking for smoky things.

Unlike most of our dining neighbours, we eschewed the bottle approach for two glasses of a lovely Blanco Nieva Verdejo at €7.50 per glass. To be frankly honest, I'm always amazed when I see couples drink two bottles of wine at dinner. Where's the enjoyment of the food when you're that blotto?

Brioche Ranelagh really is something special. Its quiet location on Elmwood Avenue makes it incredibly inviting, especially at night time when it casts warm light out onto the footpath. Inside, it's warm and bustling, the presentation is slick and the food is good. Ranelagh is a location where a good restaurant will be successful and it looks like McDonagh's move from the city centre will be richly rewarded.

Brioche, 51 Elmwood Avenue Lower, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
Tel: +353 (0)86 122 8828
Twitter: @BriocheRanelagh

Brioche on Urbanspoon
© Stitch and Bear | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Developed by pipdig